Is the best defense against hamstring strains a simple stretch?
Huge week for injuries, right? Big names like Sam Bradford, Reggie Wayne and Brian Cushing are out for the rest of the season. It's those players, especially if you add in Arian Foster, Doug Martin and others, who drive the headlines.
When some offensive guard or third-string tight goes down, few notice. There's a "next man up" mentality that has led the NFL to accept injuries in some cases, and while it's a necessity, it's also a cop-out.
To say that there's nothing to do that could reduce injuries is false and actively makes the game worse. While injuries will never go to zero, they could go down. Sports science has shown amazing leaps forward, yet the NFL has largely ignored it.
The game runs on received wisdom, passed down from one coach or player to the next, which means that the heart of football today is likely the same as it was for Bronko Nagurski. It might even be his words.
Here's one example: ACL injuries this season are already up over the full season total from 2012 and up from 2011. Barnett Frank, a researcher from UNC, dug into the stats and told me about this alarming increase, but what's the NFL doing about it?
The athletes are bigger, stronger and faster. The game is more open. There's a huge increase in passing over just a decade ago, but injuries? There's no question that there's much more "rub some dirt on it" than cutting edge, despite the best efforts of the athletic trainers and doctors around the game.
Until that changes, I'll have lots to write about. Let's look around the league.
Injury: Unknown foot injury
Outlook: Unclear for Week 8
The Saints still aren't offering any clarity on what Jimmy Graham is dealing with. The few clues we have—an observed arch taping, Graham limping off the field—don't narrow things down much, although he was back at practice on Friday.
The symptoms and whispers point to some sort of plantar fascia injury. Even if that's the case, there's not much clarity there. A fascia issue has a broad range depending on severity. There's simply no clues about whether Graham will play this week or in the future. Worse, if he does, we have no way of knowing whether there's a recurrence risk or if he's more decoy than stud.
The Saints are playing this one very close to the vest. My normal sources have clammed up hard, and if you look around the rest of the national media, there are no leaks there either. It wouldn't surprise me if this was one of those pregame show leads come Sunday, so be prepared with a Plan B.
Players like Jordan Reed and Joseph Fauria are available in many leagues.
Injury: Strained hamstring
Outlook: Expected to play Week 8
The interesting thing is that we all remember how quickly and how well Adrian Peterson came back from his knee reconstruction. We forget that he had a sports hernia fix done in the offseason and that he was considered injury prone coming out of the draft. He's human.
That's why news of a mild hamstring strain, one Peterson told the Star Tribune was "making him hesitant," isn't really that surprising. Peterson is durable but, again, human. He's taken a lot of hits and racked up a lot of yardage on those legs, so minor strains like this are to be expected, but they are a sign.
Running backs don't last forever. Durability is almost unheard of in the modern game, which is leading to the near-extinction of the single feature back. Peterson is likely to play, but with the hamstring situation potentially costing him carries and the QB situation stacking the box and confusing the offense, he's not likely to rack up big points again this week.
Injury: Sprained knee (MCL)
Outlook: Expected to play Week 8
DeMarco Murray wanted to play last week, but the Cowboys thought a week's healing would be better for him. That's what the medical staff is there for, to make those kind of hard decisions and to pull the reins back on players who would always play if it were strictly their call. They never think they're that hurt.
If he thought he could play last week, you can be sure that Murray thinks he can play this week. The question is whether his knee agrees. The medical staff will be testing the knee this week in practice to see how it responds both physically and functionally, as noted by the Dallas Morning News' Rainer Sabin.
Murray will be a game-time decision technically, but we should have a very good idea where he is by Friday. Early reports are mixed, with Murray efforting well but still showing some functional lapses in his lateral motion.
It will be a tough decision on whether to let him play with some limitations or to give the carries back to Phillip Tanner and Joe Randle. My guess now is that Murray will play but will not get full touches. His fantasy value could come down to short touchdown runs, where his limitations would not be a major issue.
Injury: Strained thigh; strained hamstring
Outlook: Game-time decision; ruled out for Week 8
Atlanta's season hasn't gone to expectations. Both traumatic and wear-down injuries have altered their offensive capabilities so much that it's tough to get a read on just how talented this bunch is. In what should have been a peak value year for Matt Ryan, he's left with Harry Douglas, who surprisingly had a breakout week.
Getting Steven Jackson back on the field should be a plus. While Jacquizz Rodgers has stepped up his game and shown more of an ability to be an every-down back in the NFL, he's not as powerful as Jackson or even Jason Snelling.
Rodgers is more suited to being a change-of-pace or a platoon guy than a feature, but Jackson's better suited to that as well. His mileage is catching up to him, and with a strain taking this much time to heal, we have to wonder how long it would be until the next one. A good game from him would make him a sell-high candidate.
Roddy White fought through his high ankle sprain for weeks, but now that a hamstring strain broke his consecutive games streak, he'll have time to let his leg issues heal up.
He has been ruled out for Week 8, but many think that Jackson's long healing time indicates something for White. Every injury is different, so there's little carryover. Yes, the Falcons medical staff is a bit conservative, but it's not obstructionist. There's a chance White could be back as soon as Week 9.
Injury: Sprained knee (PCL)
Outlook: Game-time decision, unlikely to play Week 8
The Packers are giving James Jones every chance to play in Week 8, but given the type of injury he has, it's unlikely he's going to be quite there. Expect him to push for things on Friday, trying to convince the medical staff that he's ready. He may even be a real game-time decision, but I don't expect him to play.
The Packers would rather think long term, at least as long as Aaron Rodgers has someone to throw to. With Jordy Nelson and Jarrett Boykin playing well, Jones getting another week to rest and heal is a solid plan. Essentially, they're hedging against another injury, streaming wide receivers like some fantasy teams do. It certainly could have been much worse, as Tom Silverstein explains in this article.
The injury to Jermichael Finley complicates things. Not only was Finley the TE1, he was essentially functioning as a wideout up until his neck injury in Week 7.
The Packers don't have a valid receiving tight end on the roster right now, though Andrew Quarless is a solid enough blocker for the role. Chris Harper is a big wide receiver who was cut despite being a fourth-round pick, but he could fit in the hybrid role in the short term.
Outlook: Game-time decision for Week 8
In the pre-computer days, medical records were kept on paper. Athletic trainers would dutifully note every injury, every treatment, every doctors visit and more, then put it in the file. When a player would change teams, the file would be sent along with him. Before a trade, it would need to be copied and couriered to the other team.
Imagine what Danny Amendola's file would look like. There'd be extra postage due, I'm sure.
Amendola's concussion from last week has cleared, and he's passed all stages of the NFL's concussion protocol, which makes him likely to play this week. It's fun to watch Bill Belichick dance with the media on this topic. However, Amendola's not 100 percent and won't be, given the extant groin issue (which, by the way, should give hope to many Bears fans given its similarities to Jay Cutler's injury.)
The addition of Rob Gronkowski to the active roster is going to take targets from Amendola as well. Tom Brady quickly found his big tight end in almost every situation, and Gronk responded.
Amendola offers something different, so he won't be phased out, but Julian Edelman has been more of Brady's guy in the role, especially in the red zone. Amendola as Wes Welker was a nice idea but a bad reality.
The fact that Danny Amendola came back after a similar groin strain is interesting for Cutler fans, but they don't share much functionally. One of the hardest things for Cutler to do will be to drop back.
Go ahead and try it at home and see how much pressure that puts on the groin. Cutler will need at least four weeks, and even then he may have to operate out of the shotgun. That will force Marc Trestman to make adjustments.
How the Bears play in his absence will have a lot to do with when or even if Cutler returns.
Gore's minor ankle issue isn't a worry yet. If he's out of practice on Friday, then it's time to worry. Kendall Hunter has been taking more of the workload anyway, so this shouldn't affect the 49ers game plan significantly, though there's some fantasy question about who would get the short-yardage touches if Gore isn't 100 percent.
Manning's ankle issue that kept him out of practice Wednesday is nothing. He'll play, and he'll play well. And no, conspiracy theorists, the Broncos aren't hiding a problem with his arm by listing an ankle issue. Manning's fine on that front as well.
Johnson's dunk after a touchdown told me everything I needed to know about his knee. He has the burst back. The Lions medical staff seems to need two weeks to get a handle on minor knee injuries, or maybe there's something in their maintenance program that takes a bit to kick in. Johnson will play and should be starting in all formats.